Here I will catalog my reaction to various things.
Jan. 23, 2011
Review of the documentary FORKS OVER KNIVES www.forksoverknives.com
Ok, the good parts of the movie: That diet is medicine, that people who eat whole foods have control over their health and their genes, that corporate power dictates what we eat, that refined grains and sugars make us fat and sick, and maintaining a normal weight makes you feel good and live longer.
Beyond that, this movie is full of outdated evidence and skewed statistics. There are many nations/cultures who consume far more dairy than we do – The Finns, for instance, eat twice as much butter, drink more than twice as much fluid milk, and eat several more pounds of cheese a year than we do – and yet have half our cancer rates. None of those countries were included in their comparison graphs, only the countries that follow the pattern they were convinced was true.
The main thing the documentary ignores entirely is the qualitative differences between animal foods in the beginning of the 20th century and what we eat today. It also ignores vast changes in the nature of farming. The farms those older scientists grew up on – where a living could be made with thirty cows – are gone forever, replaced by gigantic herds owned by equally large corporations. The milk those men drank was probably raw and came from cows eating grass, and yes, in that form it is nature’s perfect food. It helps even more if it’s fermented (the lack of fermented foods in the modern diet was also overlooked).
The casein itself, the protein in milk found to increase rats cancer growth rates, has also changed in recent evolutionary history (from A-2/A-2 to A-1/A-1, there’s lots of information about the repercussions of this online, not going to go into it here). Humans have been consuming the milk of other creatures for probably ten thousand years. If it were so awful for humans, milk drinking cultures would have died out by now. How would these well intentioned men explain the amazing health of the Masai people, who ate cow’s blood and milk exclusively for centuries?
The low fat milk products pushed on supermarket shoppers, deconstructed in the laboratory, and hidden in processed foods are NOT what nourishes our bodies. People are fat because the food they consume has no nutrients and they are malnourished while being overfed. The cure is to eat nourishing foods! I think the men who had blood work done would have had improvements across the board if they had lost 20-30 pounds on any diet. Unfortunately all the credit was given to the type of lower calorie diet that caused the (probably short term) weight loss.
There was one reference to the real problem with consuming non-whole animal foods – when the researcher gentleman (sorry don’t remember the names) states that removing the fat from milk makes it very unbalanced. His studies in rats were based on feeding them only part of milk, and yes, that’s bad for us. Low fat dairy products are NOT whole foods and should not be consumed, I agree with that. To conclude that we should therefore eliminate dairy entirely from the diet is silly.
There are many fat soluble nutrients in milk/eggs/meat that women and children especially need. Their examples of long term, healthy vegetarians were white men. Women have entirely different nutritional needs, as men don’t lose blood every month, and a whole bunch of nutrients go into creating another human (read Sex, Time, and Power by medical doctor Leonard Shlain for a fascinating and full picture of this fact). People who have genes that are closer in time to indigenous cultures often can’t manufacture in their small intestines the nutrients supplied by animal foods. White adults can frequently manufacture vitamins A and the Bs in their gut, all children and many ethic groups cannot. It is WRONG and DANGEROUS to recommend a low fat diet for children. This movie didn’t specifically do that, but they make the insinuation that all humans would benefit from adopting this plant based diet. I strongly, strongly disagree.The same all goes for meat, as animals that consume grass have those very famous “good fats” (we’re so terrified of fats we can’t call them that – they’re referred to by their omega placements or called fatty acids) that are found in wild caught salmon. Corn fed beef does not contain these good fats, and it’s riddled with antibiotics, hormones and other horrendous things they feed cows these days. It’s not the same food that it was when these men were children, and yet these difference don’t support their argument so they aren’t mentioned.
This movie rests heavily on the argument that cholesterol in the blood is caused by eating cholesterol but there is SO MUCH EVIDENCE that this isn’t true! Our bodies manufacture cholesterol, that’s how important it is for our normal function. It also is couched in the belief (and it is a belief, there’s no evidence to support it) that saturated fat is bad for you. The most shelf stable fats that are the most common in all traditional diets are what we shouldn’t be eating? Perhaps if their graphs had included a chart that plots the rise in heart disease with the increase in vegetable oils, we’d see a different picture and come to a different conclusion. (like this site: http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/cholesterol_myth_2.html) Perhaps if they’d mentioned the cultures around the world who eat (ate, traditional cultures and their diets are largely non-existent these days) virtually NO plant foods and A LOT of saturated fat and have NO heart disease or cancer or any of the western diseases (the northern peoples of canada and alaska come to mind). Again, conveniently left out of the argument, because it would point to the huge flaws contained within it.
They ignore that Asian cultures, portrayed as healthy because they’re free animal product free, typically eat LOTS of fish. The one native born Asian they interview tells us about his traditional diet and guess what – it included small amounts of meat! SMALL amounts. Yes, the problem in this country is about portions, portions of everything. Another way of skewing statistics is to show that we eat way more meat and dairy and sugar than we did, while ignoring the fact that we eat more than we used to, period. Also, while our dairy and meat have doubled, our sugar consumption has sky rocketed.
I don’t think sugar got enough attention in this movie, and that’s a shame. Sugar (and refined carbs are essentially sugar as far as our bodies are concerned) is the culprit. Every time the movie spoke about The Standard American Diet the image was a barbque with big hunks of meat (manned by a fat man, of course). Where’s the soda? The bread surrounding the meat? The bags of chips? The sugary condiments? The fries made of GMO potatoes and GMO oil? None of that is contributing to our health problems? The focus was narrow.
Any idiot off the street can tell you that milk has calcium and meat has protein. But it takes a finer knowledge of nutrition to know that animal products have nutrient densities of OTHER nutrients that vegetables can’t begin to match. Check out choline, for instance. In order to get the same amount of choline that five ounces of beef liver provides, you’d have to eat six and a half cups of tofu. There’s isn’t enough irrigated land in the US for us all to get our nutrient supplies from kale (and backyard gardens can’t supply all our calories in veggies either). Plus, in order to actually consume enough kale to get what we need, we’d need the digestive tract of A COW. Humans have big brains and small guts and we didn’t get that way by eating a low fat plant based diet.
Yes, the way we churn out animals and their products is disgusting, wrong, environmentally reprehensible, and the gross quantities of these horrible “foods” we consume are killing us. Eliminating these things from our diet is ignoring the real issue though. Search out REAL meat, milk, and eggs, support small farms and farmers who care about their customers. Taste the difference in the food! Eat meat without feeling emotionally bad about it! Feel the difference in your body! These are changes that will change our nation. Buying tons of produce from Dole in so cal is perpetuating the status quo, and will sooner or later (sooner I’m hoping) this unsustainable pattern will be impossible. I didn’t hear this movie mention organic or small scale farms ONCE. They ignore the qualitative differences in the very vegetables they’re telling us to eat!
I’m sad that this movie is going to convince more people that the only diet that will save us is one that many people can’t follow for very long. Anyone can change their diet for a few weeks, and yes, if you drastically reduce calories you’ll lose weight and health benefits will follow. Are any of the film’s test examples going to be able to stick to a low fat diet long term and keep the weight off? I doubt it. Humans are programed to crave fatty things because we NEED fat to live. It’s just that we’re consuming fats that are bad for us. If you think you’re addicted to sugar, eat more natural good nutritious fats and the cravings for carbs will EVAPORATE. I’ve experienced it in my own body and seen it in others.